Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Italian Vegetable Melange

Red dried tomatoes in skillet with Green kale
Dried Tomatoes From Last Year's Harvest

Recipe by Robin

In the Santa Cruz area we’re harvesting the first of our tomatoes. Sweet and hot peppers, on the other hand, have been coming in since last month, along with zucchini and large amounts of kale. Have I mentioned that my husband isn’t crazy about kale? During these days of few tomatoes and much kale, I put together some classic Italian veggies and herbs (including plenty of kale) along with canned tomatoes and last year’s dried tomatoes. In a couple of weeks we’ll have more tomatoes to dry, so it’s a good time to use up last year’s stash. As you know, not all such cooking experiments work out well, but hubby Bruce put his stamp of approval on this one. Mainly that there’s enough flavor going on to balance the strong flavor of the kale.

Adding Canned Tomatoes to Melange
Substitute Fresh Tomatoes if You Have Them
If you’re lucky enough to have a ripe tomato crop already, substitute them in the sauce, but for the richest tomato-y taste use dried tomatoes too. I used dried herbs, but you can substitute fresh—double the amount and add them to the sauce with the tomatoes. Feel free to change up the proportion of the herbs, or substitute different kinds of peppers. I used green garlic, so the sauce needed a bit of a garlic boost with garlic powder and garlic salt. You probably won’t need that if you use dry garlic—and consider reducing the amount of dry garlic to 6 cloves max. This recipe begs for variations, so leave a comment if you create one that you like.

Update August 9, 2013: I just made this recipe again with fresh tomatoes, which created quite a bit more liquid. See my notes below for turning this potential sogginess into yummy sauce.

Complleted Melange in Skillet
Melange of Bright Colors and Texture
Italian Vegetable Melange
serves ~10

1½ - 2 tbsp. olive oil
1¼ cup sliced onion
¼ cup minced green garlic
1 cup seeded, chopped padron peppers
3 cups sliced mild Hungarian bell peppers
4 cups sliced zucchini
1 large bunch kale
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. dry oregano
¼ tsp. dry thyme
28 oz. can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
See notes at bottom of page if using fresh tomatoes!

Strip kale leaves from stems. Chop the kale or tear it into bite-sized pieces. You will have up to 7 cups.

Heat electric skillet to 350 degrees F (medium high). When water sizzles, add olive oil. Heat for a minute, then add onion and sauté, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add sliced padron and bell peppers. Stir around to coat with oil. Continue stirring and sautéing until padrons are wilted, about 2 – 3 minutes.

Add zucchini and stir to coat with olive oil. You might need to add a bit more oil. Sauté and stir for another 2 minutes.

Add the kale and stir until it’s wilted. You might need to wilt half of the kale at a time if you have a large quantity. The process will take about 2 – 4 minutes.

Add dried tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, and canned tomatoes. Stir till well blended. Reduce heat to 300 degrees F.

Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste sauce and add garlic salt and/or garlic powder to taste. Serve as a side dish.

Zucchini, Padron and Hungarian peppers, onion, kale, garlic, and tomatoes
Classic Italian Ingredients 
To Substitute Fresh Tomatoes for Canned:

  • Use 4 - 6 cups tomatoes in large dice.
  • Saute in large wok, so liquid collects at the bottom.
  • Toss a few times after adding tomatoes during simmering.
  • When melange is cooked, remove veggies with slotted spoon to serving bowl or platter. Drain excess liquid off platter into wok.
  • Turn wok up to high heat and boil liquid until it reduces and thickens, stirring very frequently for about 4 minutes.
  • Dissolve 1/2 tsp. cornstarch in about 2 tbsp. water. Add slowly to sauce while stirring vigorously. Cook until thicker, about 1 - 2 minutes.
  • Serve tomato sauce over veggies.
  • Drain excess liquid before storing leftovers. You can boil liquid down into more sauce if you like.

Italian Veggie Melange topped with Sauce
Melange with Fresh Tomato & Sauce

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